Succession Laws: Report



The rule of ademption specifies that, when the subject matter of a specific gift to someone is no longer in the will-maker’s estate at the date of death (because it has been sold or given away, for example), the beneficiary will receive nothing. In this case, the gift is said to have adeemed.


A person appointed by the court under letters of administration to administer a deceased estate that has no executor. This may be because there is no will, the will does not appoint an executor, or a named executor is unwilling or unable to act.

Bona vacantia

Property that has no owner. If a person dies intestate (leaving property that is not disposed of by a will) and is not survived by any next of kin, the intestate estate belongs to the Crown as bona vacantia.


Personal property, as distinct from real property. Money, securities and property used for business purposes are excluded from the definition of chattels.

Collateral relatives

Blood relatives who are related by common ancestry but not through a direct line of descent. For example, the relationship between siblings is collateral.


An expense paid by a solicitor on behalf of a client, for which reimbursement will be sought. Disbursements are distinct from solicitors’ professional fees and might include, for example, the cost of medical reports or a barrister’s fees.


The person appointed by the will to administer the estate.

Grant of letters of administration

A grant made where there is no will, or where there is a will but no executor is available for some reason. It confers upon a court-appointed administrator the authority to administer the estate.

Grant of probate

A grant made when there is a will. A grant of probate certifies that the will is the last and valid will of the deceased person and confirms the authority of the executor named in the will to administer the estate.

Grant of representation

A grant, by the Supreme Court, of probate or of letters of administration.


The requirement for certain benefits received by a deceased person’s child during the deceased person’s lifetime to be taken into account when determining that child’s share on intestacy.

Informal administration

Administration of estate assets without a grant of representation.

Inter vivos

Refers to something that occurs during life. In the succession law context, it is most often used to distinguish between gifts or transactions during a person’s life and those that occur in accordance with their will.


Occurs when a person dies without having made a valid will, or where their will fails to effectively dispose of all of their property. Intestacy can be partial, where only some of the deceased person’s property is effectively disposed of by will, or total, where none of the deceased person’s property is effectively disposed of by will.


A person’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other direct descendants down this line.

Joint tenancy

Common ownership of property when all co-owners (or co-tenants) together own the whole piece of property, each having an undivided share. Property that is owned jointly passes to the surviving co-owner or co-owners on the death of one of the co-owners and does not become part of the deceased person’s estate. See also survivorship and tenancy in common.

Lineal relatives

Blood relatives who are related by a direct line of ancestry, either ancestors or descendants. For example, the parent to child relationship is lineal.

Next of kin

A person’s closest blood relatives. A deceased person’s estate is distributed to their surviving partner(s) and next of kin on intestacy.

Personal representative

The common term that refers to either an executor appointed by a will, or an administrator appointed by the Supreme Court, to administer the deceased person’s estate.

Real property

Land and interests in land, otherwise known as real estate.

Registrar of Probates

An officer of the Supreme Court appointed under the Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic) to exercise the power of the Court in making grants of representation.

Residuary estate

The remainder of the estate after debts and liabilities are paid, and specific gifts and legacies are distributed.

Statutory will

A will authorised by the court for a person who is alive but lacks the testamentary capacity required to make a valid will for themselves.


A right in relation to property held by two or more people as joint tenants. Where a co‑owner (or co-tenant) dies, their share in the property passes to the surviving co-owner(s). It cannot be given by will. See also joint tenancy.

Tenancy in common

A type of co-ownership where multiple parties own distinct interests in the same piece of property. The share owned by a tenant in common forms part of their estate. See also joint tenancy.

Testamentary capacity

The mental capacity required to make a valid will. To have testamentary capacity, a person must be of sound mind, memory and understanding, and must understand the nature and effect of making a will.